71 year old British pensioner Malcolm Munroe has been hospitalised after suffering a stroke in 2013 that left him paralysed and bedridden, unable to move except for blinking. A string of personal and business misfortunes left him with debts he can never pay. Flaws in Dubai’s legal system mean that Malcolm is treated as a criminal and must be detained until his debts are paid and he completes a 3 year jail sentence. Incapacitated, Malcolm has no chance to pay those debts or survive the sentence.
Malcolm Munroe, from Chorlton in Manchester, moved to Dubai in 1983 to run a successful roofing and cladding company with several hundred employees.
Malcolm was the sole signatory of his company and so, after his stroke rendered him unable to function, the business eventually collapsed leaving Malcolm, under strict UAE law, criminally responsible.
In the UAE, both business and personal debts are considered criminal rather than civil and there no effective bankruptcy laws existed to protect the elderly businessman. The pressure also had a powerful effect on his wife’s health; After the stroke left Malcolm helpless and bedridden, his wife Olga was forced to return to the UK to have treatment for cancer. Neither she nor other family members dare to visit Malcolm for fear of being detained themselves, as they were all involved in Malcolm’s business.
The British embassy, supposedly the safety net for the protection of British Nationals in Dubai, seemed more concerned with maintaining a tranquil trade relationship with the UAE than defending the paralysed stroke victim.
Malcolm Munroe has been attended to in the Rashid Hospital since Christmas in 2013, needing 24 hour care for the rest of his life.
Malcolm is fed through a tube and will need to stay connected to an oxygen tank for the remainder of his days. UAE law views and treats him as a hardened criminal.
Malcolm was sentenced to 3 years in prison. As he is unable to complete his prison sentence he can never be repatriated under UAE law.
Malcolm’s birthday was last month. His family doesn’t know if they will ever see him alive again despite Malcolm’s friends in Dubai raising thousands of pounds for a private helicopter to begin transferring him back to the UK; The move is being blocked by the Dubai authorities who refuse to release him to be be taken home to Manchester.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, the British based NGO defending expats who fall foul of the UAE legal system said, “It is clear that nothing can be gained from Mr Munroe’s detention and that the humane thing to do would be to forgive his debts and allow his family to bring him home.
“Mr Munroe’s case is an example of how heavy handedly the UAE deals with debt; no one is exempt, even when they have suffered catastrophic health problems. While we hope that the UAE will relent in this case, it serves as a stark warning to other expats that any and all debt-related issues need to be addressed as quickly as possible for if they are not addressed, the consequences can be life altering.
“We have a large number of British nationals currently prevented from leaving the UAE because of debt that was out of their control. The authorities confiscate their passports and they are forbidden from seeking employment that would help them pay their obligations. If they manage to leave the country, they are harassed by relentless debt collection agencies and in some instances, reported to the Interpol database and arrested in other countries for extradition. The UAE need to urgently review the way that they approach financial matters if they want to retain the trust of visitors and expat workers.”